Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the Japan Racing Association (JRA) study has supports the use of bone marrow stem cell to treat major tendon injuries in horse. Findings from the RVC indicate that stem cell therapy for superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) injury can significantly reduce the rate of re-injury over a three year period compared to conventionally treated horses.

The most frequently injured tendon in the horse is the SDFT. With conventional treatment the tendon will heal with a fibrous scar, which impairs tendon elasticity. This results in reduced performance and a substantial risk of re-injury. Early outcome measurements to determine SDFT stiffness have indicated that tendons treated with stem cells show greater elasticity, more normal cellularity, vascularity, and organization on blind-scored assessments than those treated with a placebo

The most recent outcome data, which studied 168 national hunt horse in the UK, has identified that the re-injury rate, following stem cell therapy for SDFT injury and return to full work, in the three years following treatment is 24%, compared to 56% reported for horses that have undergone more traditional tendon treatment.The horses included in the follow-up study had suffered moderate to severe SDFT injuries no more than four weeks prior to the proposed stem cell treatment.

Bone marrow was aspirated from the sternum under standing sedation. The stem cells were isolated and expanded to in excess of 10 million cells before being re-suspended in growth factor rich bone marrow supernatant and implanted into the injured SDFT under untrasonographic guidance. The horses then entered a 48 week rehabilitation period comprising an ascending exercise regime.

Source: The Horse